Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Poet Malika Booker at Brudenell Primary School

Class teacher Laura Hart with Malika Booker

Richard Wilcocks writes:
Malika was the main focus of the class's attention as soon as she walked through the door on the first of three sessions. She brought a kind of infective confidence with her, and when she started to talk about her family, and about truth, lies and exaggeration, it was clear from the smiles and the nods of recognition that she was making an impact. 

She told the ten year-olds that she was going to read them one of her poems which didn't rhyme, and which contained all three of those things. It was about a cat which was given away when she was born - true - and about how her her mum had seen 'babies mangled/ by jealous cats in the hospital' - exaggeration - and about how her mum had also had seven dreams about the cat scratching the baby - a lie. A copy of the poem ('Letting Go') was given out to go with the reading. 

The questions and answers flew back and forth, and the writing began, tentatively in some cases for the children whose first language is not English. Malika helped as if they were all in Masterchef: "Remember poetry is like cooking," she said. "You've got to start with the right ingredients."
Malika rehearsing the class

Class teacher Laura Hart carried on the work, so that by the time the second session came around, the children were ready to start thinking about performing the short narrative poems they had written, or partly written. Malika worked out a chorus with them and put it on the whiteboard.

We tell our stories
from our lives
add truth and lies
dreams shadows and surprise 

"Think about what will bring your stories alive," said Malika. Letters and text messages for parents and friends were sent out, inviting them for the next week in the hall.

The third and final session was preceded by an extended rehearsal in the gym. It was intensive and elaborate. Laura Hart had worked wonders in a week, making sure everything had been completed, and began with groups of three or four stepping forward to read, then returning to their seats as the whole class chanted the chorus. It worked well. Malika delighted everyone by leading a series of games and exercises which she had learned when she was with the Royal Shakespeare Company. These were to improve delivery, increase concentration and strengthen group work. 

There were tongue-twisters, stepping in and out of an invisible river and throwing invisible balls while making eye-contact. There was an exercise involving saying words as if gum was being chewed at the same time. A distinction was made between a 'classroom voice' and a 'playground voice'. Malika wanted a playground voice, of course.

The performance was extraordinary and I mean that. These children had come so far in just a fortnight. They displayed talents they hadn't known about. They had discovered significant facts about their own abilities. Shyness had not been completely eliminated, but it was on the run! If I needed any recent confirmation of the fact that poetry and drama are essential parts of a balanced education, I would choose that fortnight at Brudenell School. 

Selected poems

Everyone walked on that fluffy carpet,
Then into that gooey mud,
Every night it happens,
it still carries on.     (Maryam)

One murderous night I got up,

I went to get my daily Lotto,
I won 10 billion!
Then I woke up with 50 pence next to me,
I cried rage and fireballs       (Romarn)

My dream

My memory
Riding my bike
My dad holding me
Then he let go...     (Osama)

We dropped him at the hospital,

But on the way home'
I saw a coloured poster,
A warning,
At that hospital they
Suck out your brains.

I didn't worry,

My dad has infinite brains,
It was all okay,
Once I woke up from my dream.   (Adil)

It was time to go to bed,

We heard some creepy creaking noises,
And banging on the wall,
It was like a tornado approaching.

My mum went to investigate,

the banging was the neighbours,
But to this day
We still don't know where
the creepy creaking
came from.    (Nicole)

As dark as space in the

middle of the night,
looking all around me,
tip-toeing
to the bathroom.

The wind sounded like a drilling chainsaw,

creaking sounds and creepy groans.
Suddenly the hallway lights switched off!
Next time,
I'm not going to the bathroom alone.     (Hashim)


Comments from the Audience
It is amazing because my daughter love reading and writing poetry after what she learned in three weeks.

Very interesting, I love poetry and I want my son to get involved in it. It gives kids confidence to express their self. Good luck …! J

I like and enjoyed listening to the poems written by the children as it improves children’s confidence and imagination.

My child really enjoyed this and lit up as he read the poem out loud. He is normally really shy but this helped him overcome his shyness. Thank you.

Beautiful poem – children were great. Amazing.

Comments from the Headteacher – Jo Davies

It is really lovely to see the progress the children make in such a short time – not just in their writing but in their performance skills. Sometimes, there is a little performer in there that we knew nothing about.

Other Staff Members

A lovely event, evidently improves children’s presentation and performance confidence.

It was clear how much hard work had gone into it. Was really effective and could see how much the children enjoyed it.

Was good to get background about the inspiration behind the work. Was nice to hear about how long the children had been working on the poems and the process the wet through to create the poem.

Excellent as always. The children had obviously worked hard and had created moving and thoughtful poems. They showed great confidence in standing up and performing.

Inspirational and always brilliant. It boosts the children’s confidence and allows them to come out of their shells. They can express themselves wholly. Continue the great project.


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The children had the opportunity to compose and then perform their poetry. I saw some children (quiet children) perform amazingly. Really developed confidence in them. Great work!

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